“This river is in the emergency room with a pile of doctors trying everything they can to keep that patient alive,” he said.
This summer, to conserve water amid severe drought, water release from Lake Cowichan was restricted to the lowest level possible. About 10 days before the dead fry were found, the flow of water in the river was reduced by more than a third.
The decades-old weir is incapable of providing sufficient water in the era of climate change, said Mr. Rutherford of the Cowichan Watershed Board.
The Cowichan Watershed Board is pressing for the construction of a bigger weir that would store more water for the dry months, Mr. Rutherford said. With the local government’s climate projections predicting hotter, drier summers and warmer winters, more human intervention will be needed to keep the Cowichan alive, experts say.
In the past, the Cowichan River went through periods of drought but was always able to regenerate. Today, that is no longer possible, said David Anderson, who served as a federal minister of the environment two decades ago and is a member of the board.